- Associated Press - Thursday, December 7, 2017

JACKSON, Miss. (AP) - Federal prosecutors and investigators say they’re cracking down on gun crime in Mississippi’s capital city.

Called Project Eject, it’s a local expression of U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions’ mandate for federal prosecutors to focus on violent crime.

“We want to empower Jackson and its citizens, expel crime from our communities, and work together to make our capital city safe for everyone,” U.S. Attorney Mike Hurst said Thursday in announcing the effort. “The message to violent criminals in Jackson is simple - if you violate our laws and terrorize our neighborhoods, you will be ejected from our community.”

Hurst said 18 people have already been indicted for crimes committed in Jackson. He pointed to research that showed previous efforts had succeeded in reducing crime.

He also promised that federal prosecutors will seek to hold those suspects in jail without bail, try to convict and procure long sentences, and then ask the Federal Bureau of Prisons to house them far from Mississippi.

“We won’t cut a deal; they will serve time,” Hurst said.

The idea behind that harsh approach is to deter others from committing crime. He said about a dozen federal and state officers are working with the Jackson Police Department to identify suspects for prosecution. The FBI and the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives are among those participating, with agents going to crime scenes to evaluate evidence for possible prosecution.

Christopher Freeze, who leads the FBI’s Jackson office, said Mississippi’s high rates of violent crime show the need for the initiative

The project is also supposed to seek input from town hall meetings and neighborhood groups. Hurst also called on business owners to hire people who may have criminal records but want to go straight.

“We’ve got to give folks a second chance,” Hurst said.

Jackson Police Chief Lee Vance said he welcomed the assistance and said he hoped people would “decide a life of crime is not for them.”

Many of the crimes targeted by the effort would normally be prosecuted in state court, but Hinds County District Attorney said he looked forward to working with the partnership. Smith said his office has been unable to win convictions against some suspects.

“We have an opportunity to revisit some of those cases with more resources,” Smith said.


Follow Jeff Amy on Twitter at: http://twitter.com/jeffamy . Read his work at https://www.apnews.com/search/Jeff_Amy .

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